Can Corcoran Pull Off a Welch? Realtor to Pen How-To Book

Manhattan real-estate maven Barbara Corcoran has a reputation for

parlaying her high–profile style into profits, whether offering stiff-upper-lip

sermons about the resiliency of the real-estate market (“It’ll buck up in three

months or I’ll eat my hat!” she recently told The Observer ) or giving motivational speeches to her staff at a

Bermuda retreat.

But starting in early 2003, the wisdom of Barbara Corcoran will

cost you-probably in the neighborhood of 30 bucks.

Ms. Corcoran signed a deal with Penguin Putnam editor Adrian

Zackheim on Nov. 16 to write an as-yet-untitled book about the tons of advice

her mother, Florence, has given her, and how she’s employed that advice in

running the city’s largest real-estate brokerage. The book will be released by

Penguin’s new business imprint, Portfolio, and Ms. Corcoran’s agent, Stuart

Krichevsky, said the contract was for “upwards of $500,000.”

“Money was not the object when I started writing the book,” said

Ms. Corcoran from her Park Avenue home, where she was working with co-author

Bruce Littlefield on Chapter 6: “Put Your Socks in the Sock Drawer.” “But once

all the bidders came

into play and we had an auction-which wasn’t planned-I became interested in the

money, and certainly the company that bid the most boldly won the book.”

According to Mr. Krichevsky, he submitted sample chapters to

several publishers in early October, and he and Ms. Corcoran and Mr.

Littlefield, who has done research for writer Gail Sheehy and the late Edwin

Diamond, considered the offers up till Nov. 16.

But the idea for a book first occurred to Ms. Corcoran two

summers ago, when she found herself writing down some of the “As mom used to

say … ” anecdotes she uses in speeches to her 600 brokers. Last summer, she

said, “[I] started writing outlines of some of my mother’s examples, and I

think I had come up with more than 50.”

She auditioned several ghostwriters (she wouldn’t name them) to

file sample first chapters and found Mr. Littlefield.

“He gets it,” Ms. Corcoran said.

“When we found this idea of using her mother’s lessons,” Mr.

Krichevsky said, “then it all came together.”

More likely, the project took

off once Ms. Corcoran sold her company, the Corcoran Group-for a reported $65

million-in September.

The book’s 21 “lessons” will be arranged first as stories in

which Ms. Corcoran describes various scenes from her Edgewater, N.J.,

upbringing, “then I jump back into my business situation,” she said, “and

describe everything I do in my business,” and how her mother’s lessons apply.

They range from the familiar (“Don’t save the good china for Sunday”) to the

more obscure (“If it’s quiet in the clubhouse, you’re not making spaghetti”).

A sample: “She’s working at the counter of the Fort Lee Diner,”

said Mr. Krichevsky (who also represents Sebastian Junger). “And there was

another waitress who had a very impressive figure, and all the men wanted to

sit in her section. Even when the counter was empty, they all wanted to sit

with Gloria. And Barbara didn’t know what to do about this, and talked to her

mother. ‘Barbara, if you don’t have big breasts, put ribbons on your

pigtails,'” her mother apparently counseled.

“She did that and looked sweet and innocent, and since people sat

with her, she was able to turn on her charm and get regular customers.”

And how did this make her millions in the Manhattan real-estate

market? “When she first became a real-estate broker and had a one-bedroom apartment

for rent that was not especially remarkable, she said, ‘Let me find a way to

put ribbons on the pigtails,’ and she got the landlord to build a wall and

build an apartment that she could advertise as ‘one bedroom plus den.'”

Ta-da.

Asked why the hokey approach to a business book, Ms. Corcoran

said, “Most [business books], I find the format boring. I go to sleep.” But she

argued that her book would not be as soft and fuzzy as it might sound. “If it’s

soft, I’m not going to do it,” she said.

“When you grow up in a household of 10 children, you naturally

learn the art of competition. And when things are down, how well you compete

becomes the key issue, because only the strong survive-and so much of what we

got from my mother is that,” said Ms. Corcoran of her 77-year-old parent. “Nine

out of 10 of her kids wound up being entrepreneurs. She kept telling me I was

gonna be a star, and that I had a wonderful imagination, and she told me that

as I failed every subject at school.” There was the occasional slip: “She did

tell my brother that he would be a wonderful dancer, and he became a ballet

dancer and he hated it.

“Nothing turns [my family] on more than when the chips are down.

I’ve lived through three horrific real-estate cycles where my competitors have

gone out of business and I’ve moved ahead. I think the book almost comes into

its own the worse the economy gets, because it shoots between the eyes the idea

… of a down market as a huge advantage-any bad business cycle, because everyone

lays low and they’re leaving the stage wide open.

“I learned in business that if it’s quiet, it’s trouble,” she

said. “You have to figure out what people are really up to.”

Ms. Corcoran’s announcement of her book deal explains in part

what she’s been up to since she sold her business. But she’ll also be pulling

back from Corcoran a bit, she said, as she spends two days a week with Mr.

Littlefield finishing the manuscript.

 Upper

East Side

215

East 79th Street

One-bed,

one-bath, 800-square-foot co-op.

Asking:

$589,000. Selling: $577,500.

Charges:

$1,205; 47 percent tax-deductible.

Time

on the market: two weeks.

BEST

PERK: THEY LIKE YOUR POOCH There are nice-sized one-bedroom apartments, and

then there are nice-sized one-bedroom apartments that have a little something

extra. Located in a postwar co-op near Third Avenue, this apartment has prewar

details like high ceilings, crown moldings and sunny southern views, plus a

sunken living room, dining room and two small terraces. Add to this the fact

that the apartment had recently undergone a high-end renovation, and “I knew it

was going to be an easy sell,” said broker Julie Friedman of Bellmarc Realty.

“I could have sold it in the first day.” As it turned out, she showed the place

to about 18 people; the fourth person who saw it snatched it up. It turned out

that the new owner was as enamored of the dog-friendly building as she was of

the apartment itself.

 Upper

West Side

175

West 73rd Street

One-bed,

one-bath, 750-square-foot co-op.

Asking:

$375,000. Selling: $362,500.

Charges:

$665.35; 52 percent tax-deductible.

Time

on the market: five months.

THE

12-YEAR ITCH A woman who’d been living for 12 years in this one-bedroom

corner apartment with east and south views put it on the market with broker

Pamela D’Arc of Stribling & Associates in January. “She just literally

needed a change,” said Ms. D’Arc. But not too much of a change, as it turned

out: As she was about to make an offer on another apartment in the

neighborhood, she found out that someone in the building was open to selling. “The

location is incredibly convenient, and the building has a wonderful roof deck,”

said Ms. D’Arc. “And although her new apartment is similar in size, it has a

different layout and a different view.” As long as it felt different enough to

her.

 Chelsea

54

West 16th Street

Two-bed,

two-bath, 1,300-square-foot co-op.

Asking:

$775,000. Selling: $762,500.

Charges:

$1,245; 38 percent tax-deductible.

Time

on the market: four weeks.

MAXIM-ALISM SELLS, TOO This is the second time in two years that Peter

Belmonte of the Corcoran Group has sold this two-bedroom apartment on 16th

Street and Sixth Avenue. Two years ago, the gay couple that had furnished the

apartment in a sleek minimalist style put the place on the market. “It looked

amazing,” Mr. Belmonte said. He sold the apartment to another couple, from

Tennessee, who had just moved from a 6,000-square-foot home in Knoxville. But

in June, the owners decided to head back to Tennessee. According to Mr.

Belmonte, the place was more difficult to sell the second time around. “They

had all this furniture in this decent-sized apartment; it was all cluttered and

disorganized,” he said. Mr. Belmonte showed it about 30 times before a

young couple decided to buy it for $100,000 more than the Knoxville couple paid

for it.

252

Seventh Avenue (Chelsea Mercantile)

One-bed,

two-bath, 2,100-square-foot condo.

Asking:

$1.45 million. Selling: $1.35 million.

Charges:

$890; not tax-deductible.

Time

on the market: three weeks.

THE

CASE FOR CONDOS Real-estate attorney Shane Sutton doesn’t like co-op

boards. In fact, he makes a good deal of his livelihood suing them on behalf of

clients who think they’re frivolous. But when Mr. Sutton, 50, left an Upper

East Side co-op in the winter of 2000 to buy a condo in the Chelsea Mercantile,

the mammoth redevelopment project at 25th Street and Seventh Avenue, he found

that the condo’s atmosphere-of neighborliness, exclusivity and smallness-was

somewhat lacking. “There are 365 units in the building,” said Mr. Sutton. He’d

bought the apartment based on a blueprint of the redesign, including a large

new rotunda lobby, interior gardens, communal sun deck, and the nine-foot

beamed ceilings, walk-in closets and limestone bathrooms in the apartments

themselves. “It’s a wonderful building, but I wanted something smaller.” After

a year, he put the apartment on the market and quickly found a buyer at $1.35

million. Looking for more personality, Mr. Sutton next hooked up with friends

who were marketing the Campiello, a new development at 151 West 17th Street, on

the site of the former Barneysparkinglot.”It’s smaller, a bit more personal,”

he said of the 50-unit building. He won’t be able to move in until June 2002,

so he’ll be staying in another apartment, on West 20th Street, that he also

owns but had been renting out. And while having friends who are helping to

market the building can’t hurt, he said, the beauty of condos is not having to

have an “in” at all.

tribeca

MINIATURIST PAYS $13.15

MILLION

FOR ENORMOUS GLASS HOUSE

Minnesota businessman Edward Bazinet made millions selling

miniature decorative porcelain and ceramic houses, but he’s bought himself a

new home that is anything but miniature. In October, Mr. Bazinet bought a

four-story modern glass house that sits atop a 140-year-old warehouse building

at 60 Warren Street in Tribeca. The seller was StarMedia Network Inc. chief

executive Fernando Espuelas.

Mr. Bazinet’s new home is located on the corner of Warren Street

and West Broadway and encompasses 9,300 square feet. It has a wall of windows,

three terraces and a private roof deck. It was originally conceived by the

developers as two apartments: a 6,000-square-foot triplex and a

3,300-square-foot single-floor apartment. Mr. Espuelas, who paid $6.1 million

for the place in 2000, decided to combine them. But before he had a chance to

finish renovating the space, his company’s stock plummeted, and he put the

place on the market for $10.95 million in March.

Mr. Bazinet, whose worth was

estimated by a Minnesota publication to be $180 million last year, making him

the 42nd-richest person in that state, already had an apartment in Manhattan.

In 1997, he’d purchased two adjoining penthouse apartments at 245 Seventh

Avenue, near the corner of West 24th Street, for a total of $1.698 million. The

two-bedroom, three-bath home-which is half the size of his new Tribeca home and

features a darkroom, a wood-burning fireplace and a terrace-went on the market

in January of this year for $5.87 million. That price was reduced to $4.9

million in October.